Leftist Singing Star Dies

Ferrat, a life-long Communist Party sympathiser, was born Jean Tenenbaum. In 1942 when he was 12-years-old, the singer’s Russian Jewish father, was deported to Auschwitz , where he died despite attempts by Communist activists to save him. The singer repaid their help by remaining a loyal follower even though he never formally signed up to the party.

One of Ferrat’s biggest hits was Ma France, a tribute to the land of his birth.

His debut album, Deux Enfants du Soleil, was released in 1961 the year he married Christine Sèvres. Many of his other songs however were somewhat less popular with the authorities. He pulled out of TV broadcasts several times after he was asked not to perform politically controversial music. One such was Potemkine, a song about the naval mutiny which helped spark Russia’s 1905 revolution – subject of course of the famous Sergei Eisenstein film – and another was a song critical of the right-wing Le Figaro newspaper because of its opposition to Ho Chi Minh, the then Communist leader of Vietnam.

In 1980 his song Bilan, a protest about “overzealous Stalinists” proved a turning point for him and he distanced himself from further support for the Soviet Union.

Michel Sesenti, mayor of Antraigues, a village where Ferrat lived for 30 years said: “if Antraigues is on the map at all, it is thanks to him.” The village inspired one of Ferrat’s best-known songs: La Montagne.

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Story: Ken Pottinger

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